The Secrets of Stanley Park Totem Poles

October 28, 2017

Stanley Park is hailed as an enduring natural paradise amid the bustle of urban life but few people know that the park was logged about a hundred years ago.

From a distance, Vancouver’s infamous group of totem poles blend into the backdrop of trees. The first indicator that I have reached my destination are the rows of tour buses and horse-drawn carriages lining the sidewalk with crowds of tourists crossing the road.

Upon crossing the road, the noise from the road dissipates and trees cover my view of the waterfront. In front of me, nine monuments tower over a group of tourists, shining bright in the afternoon sun. Although totem poles are one of the most recognizable cultural symbols of Western Canada, it is rare to see such a large collection of erected totem poles together. These monumental sculptures were carved from large trees by First Nations, depicting stories or family history.

Stanley Park was originally inhabited by several aboriginal groups, namely the X̱wáýx̱way (pronounced Whoi Whoi in English) who were evicted upon the establishment of the park. Today, these inhabitant’s tie to the land is only acknowledged through the erection of several totem poles that bring “Indian-ness” back to the peninsula.

In 1919, a plan was created to “ensure the retention of some of the relics” of the park. The original plan was to purchase an abandoned village from the north and move it to the park, introducing foreign elements disguised as historic to the park. However, funding issues led to a new plan of placing a group of totem poles instead.

Rather than a group of similar poles, some of these totem poles date back to the late 1880s while the newest one was carved in 2009. 

The first few poles were brought from Alert Bay and some were from Queen Charlotte Islands and River Inlet. They were originally located at Lumbermens’ Arch and at Prospect Point but were all brought to Brockton Point in 1962. The older totem poles have now been replaced with replicas, with the originals kept in museums for preservation, however, the expert craftsmanship is able to maintain the authenticity of the atmosphere.

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The Best Waterproof Black Ink

October 24, 2017

I tested these black inks a couple weeks back but I've been busy working on an installation, Porta-Party, and didn't have time to write up a full review.

Ever since I began using a fountain pen, I've been using the Noodler's Black ink. However, there are many other waterproof inks out there that might be better and I decided to test some of these inks out to find the best waterproof black fountain pen ink. This set of inks came in a sample set available through Goulet Pens here. I am not a calligrapher so I will be focusing this review on the ink's performance in sketchbooks and with watercolour.

Here are the 8 inks I tried out:

De Atramentis Archive Ink

De Atramentis Document Black

Platinum Carbon Black


Noodler's Black

Noodler's Black Eel

Noodler's Heart of Darkness

Noodler's X-Feather

Noodler's Bad Black Moccasin

An Ink Sketch of Singapore with Noodler's Black
An Ink Sketch of Seattle with Noodler's Black

Drying Speed

The first test I did was a drying test to see how long it takes for the ink to dry on paper. The drying time is extremely important for drawing since nobody wants to have to wait for the ink to dry after drawing each line.

I did the test by running a piece of paper over it at different time intervals. For this test, I used a Quo Vadis Habana - Black, Lined (4.02 x 6.38) pocket-sized notebook.

To my surprise, all the Noodlers' inks seem to underperform the De Atramentis and Platinum inks. The Noodlers' Black, Black Eel and X-Feather seemed to have particularly long dry times up to 10-20 seconds while the Platinum Carbon Black dried in 5 seconds.


Watercolour Paper + Waterproof

All of these inks are considered waterproof but the extent of how waterproof they are depends on the paper. This test is done on a Moleskine Large Watercolour Notebook with 180gsm watercolour paper. For each of them, I waited at least 20 seconds for them to dry before I brushed water across them.

Again, the Noodlers' ink seems to be less waterproof than the De Atramentis and Platinum inks and this was a surprise to me. The Noodlers' Black and Black Eel did well with the water while the Heart of Darkness, Bad Black Moccasin, and X-Feather did rather poorly.

The Winner

To sum up, there are many options available for waterproof ink but the best seems to be the De Atramentis Archive Ink with its minimal dry time and its waterproof quality.

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Pfeiffer Art Supplies Handmade Watercolour Review

October 10, 2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to try out Pfeiffer Art Supply's handmade watercolor set of 24. Here is what I think of it...

The Brand

Based in the USA, Pfeiffer Art Supply crafts handmade, non-toxic watercolor paints. Their paints are made from raw pigment and are mulled with a binder on a glass slab.Each pan of color takes about a week to make and is carefully made with its own unique recipe and poured by hand into half or whole sized pans. Their colors are sold either individually or in travel-size watercolor kits, great for urban sketching.

The Paints

You will not find the familiar cadmium yellow and sap green colours here, each of the paints are named after birds which are quite different from most watercolour brands.  Although it is poetic, this does make it a little difficult to pick which colours you want if you haven't tried it out. Thankfully, Pfeiffer Art Supply offers paint sample cards that can be mailed to you for free.

I did find the colours a little lighter than in the sample cards but they were all quite well made.

I particularly liked their series of blues and the X green. However, the reds were not as strong as I hoped.

Nightingale Natural Red
Falcon Red Ochre
Kingfisher Red Lacquer
Cardinal Medium Red Crimson
Toucan Orange
Sandgrouse Light Yellow Ochre
Goldfinch Dark Yellow
Yellow bill Lemon Yellow

Warbler Mayan Yellow
Tody Dark Green
Parrot Green
Tanager Green Turquoise
Babbler Blue
Macaw Ultramarine Blue
Magpie Blue
Starling Prussian Blue

Cuckoo Lavender Blue
Rose finch Ultramarine Rose
Poulet Purple Violet
Bufflehead Buff Titanium
Crane Titanium White
Sparrow Natural Umber
Heron Gray Ochre
Raven Vine Black

The Tin

The silver tin comes with magnetized pans and has room for more pans.The magnets will not stay glued onto the pan forever and do come off after some time. I also found it a little difficult to mix the paints on the acrylic cover.

Good news is Pfeiffer now carries more standard black tins with slots which would hold onto the pans more firmly and last longer.

To Conclude

I would definitely recommend this kit if you don't have a full watercolor kit yet. (Get the black tin unless you prefer to have a transparent face to your box) However, if you already have a tin with some paints, Pfeiffer Art Supply can add to your collection of paints. I intend on adding Tody Dark Green, Babbler Blue and Toucan Orange to my main watercolor set. If you are not sure, just send them an email and ask for a sample. They would be more than happy to mail you something 

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Must-See in Seattle – Sketched

September 20, 2017

From Kerry Park

Last month, I had a chance to visit Seattle for a weekend before heading back to school. I had a lot of fun over those two days and did many drawings of the city.

Nestled between mountains and the sea, Seattle is a beautiful city that offers a lot for tourists. In this post, I go through my top 5 favorite must-sees in Seattle!


Like many tourists, Seattle Center was first on my must-see Seattle list. I took the monorail from Westlake Center downtown, the ride was quick and the large glass walls offered a great view over the city. Seattle Center is home to many of the city's tourist attractions but I only had time to check out the Space Needle and the shimmering Museum of Pop Culture. I sketched both of them and explored the areas around them.


A short walk from the Space Needle is the Olympic Sculpture Park, bridging over a railway track, connecting the inner city to the waterfront. Although it was sad that a large portion of the park was closed that day because of an event, I still enjoyed my time there, especially experiencing the park's dynamic form against the speedy locomotive and cars.


At the end of my first day in Seattle, I walked up to Kerry Park to watch the sunset against the skyline of Seattle. There, I met a photographer who shared his time-lapse with me afterward.  I tried to do a watercolour sketch but I was only halfway through the drawing when it got too dark. I completed it back at the hostel.


The next morning, I visited the Fremont Troll with tourists climbing all over the monster's concrete body.


From there, I walked along the shore to reach Gas Works Park, a public park on the site of a former gasification plant. The plant I drew was fenced off from the public and left as a ruin but there were smaller parts of the old plant that remained interactive to visitors.


The weekend was coming to an end and before heading back to Vancouver, I went to the Pike Place Market, a vibrant public market filled with a variety of artisan stores. I visited the first Starbucks, a tiny store still using the old logo. However, my favorite store in the area is Metsker's Map, a store filled with maps and beautiful stickers. I even bought a few stickers to put in my sketchbook from them. I had a little more time than I expected so I stayed a little longer for a sketch. There was a pianist performing on the side of the road and I sketched him in front of the red neon sign as the sun began to set.

For this trip, I only focused on the northern side of Seattle and missed out on Chinatown, Underground tour and Pioneer Square to name a few. I look forward to going back to Seattle again in the close future. 



Space Needle
Museum of Pop Culture
Museum of Pop Culture
Gas Works Park

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